TM404: TM404

Known for recordings issued under his own name (Ljud, 2001) and the Mokira alias (Persona, 2009), Andreas Tilliander continues to challenge both his listeners and himself on his latest collection. What makes the impersonally titled TM404 such an interesting proposition is that every one of its eight tracks was recorded live in real time in the studio—all of it recorded in one take and none of its subject to post-arrangement. Though they clarify the gear involved in their production, the track titles are likewise impersonal, a typical example being “202/202/303/303/606”; there is, however, ample contrast, stylistic and otherwise, between them. Listening to the recording becomes a more visceral experience when one is constantly aware that Tilliander was creating the material in the moment and reacting spontaneously to wherever the music was taking him at that moment.

As that sample track title implies, the project name is a tribute to Roland, with Tilliander using the TB-303, TR-808, and others to generate the album's sweltering ambient dub material. He also has in his possession a Roland 505 and 909 but excluded them so as to preserve the reduced character of the project (restricting himself further, he opted to use only one of the 303's two available wave forms for creating sound).The TM404 moniker is a tad cheeky since when Roland produced the machines in the ‘80s, the idea of using 404 as a model name was considered taboo since the sound for four (‘chi') is the same as the sound for death in Japanese.

Tilliander acknowledges the acid association with Roland instruments that's been in place since the late ‘80s but distances the TM404 sound from it by describing it as ‘somnolent acid'—not a bad choice, given the music's more experimental bent. In his estimation, the music also has more in common with a composer like Steve Reich than acid figures such as Adonis and Maurice due to its polyrhythmic property. And though Reich is hardly the first name that comes to mind as one listens to TM404, the comparison begins to seem less far-fetched when metronomik cross-currents build forcefully during the second piece, “303/303/303/303/606.”

Three of the eight are deep ambient dub excursions teeming with watery chords drenched in clangorous echo, hiss, and smears. But while there's no shortage of deep ambient dub on the fifty-two-minute release, other forms emerge, too. The third track, “202/303/303/303/606/606,” travels a funkier road in its smooth swing, the lumbering “303/303/303/303/707/808” is powered by a muscular lope, and “202/202/303/303/606” serves up six minutes of bass-heavy techno-funk. Though “202/303/303/303/808” doesn't lack rhythm, it's primarily a low-key exploration of smeary dub textures that—to its credit—evidences a bit of the free-form abstraction of Vladislav Delay's great Multila and Entain recordings. If there's a weakness to the collection, it's a somewhat sketchy quality that pervades it, and the album ends up seeming less a collection of carefully developed compositions and more explorations. Admittedly, it's only natural that such an impression might arise in light of the fact that all of the tracks were generated spontaneously.

February 2013